Sequester threatens employment in Utah school district, military base

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Utah could lose up to $100 million in federal funding on Friday if Congress fails to pass a revised budget to hold off the sequester, according to the White House.

The White House sent out a fact sheet Monday outlining the impact of the sequester on each state. According to the report, the State of Utah could lose more than $6 million in primary and secondary education funding, $1 million in environmental protection and $100,000 to support law enforcement and crime prevention in the next year.

John Boehner, Lynn Jenkins
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wraps up a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 26., where he and GOP leaders challenged President Obama and the Senate to avoid the automatic spending cuts set to take effect in four days. (AP Photo)

For the military, Air Force operations in Utah would be cut by $2 million, and Army base operation funding would be cut by $16 million. Congress has until Friday to pass an alternative budget, or the cuts will go through.

According to the report, 90 teacher and aide jobs would be put at risk, and 20 fewer primary and secondary education schools would receive funding. Additionally, 9,000 fewer students would be served.

Ray W. Morgan, the assistant to the superintendent at the Provo School District, said it is unlikely that Provo schools will have to lay off employees but that if the sequester goes through, the school district will not have sufficient funding to replace employees who leave.

The Provo School District receives federal money for special education programs, professional development, ESL students and child nutrition. All of these programs would be affected, Morgan said.

Because of the local economy, the school district has seen the amount of perpetual development decrease over time. Losing funds would have a definite effect on the amount of support for teachers in the classroom, he said.

The White House also said that 15,000 Department of Defense employees in the State of Utah would be furloughed.

There are 11,500 DOD employees on Hill Air Force Base in Ogden. According to Richard Essary, who does media relations for the Air Force base, the DOD has said that furloughs are a last resort. If implemented, DOD civilians would be given 30 days notice before their temporary leave.

If sequestration occurs, the Air Force base will continue with near-term actions to save money that were implemented in January. It has already begun a temporary civilian hiring freeze. The Air Force Materiel Command, which is the higher organization over Hill Air Force Base, has also said bases should release non-mission critical term and temporary employees, though Hill Air Force Base has not yet released any employees.

Brad Johnson, deputy director for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, said the department has estimated a loss of about $1.28 million in environmental funding if the sequester goes through. The Utah DEQ receives over $17 million in federal funds each year.

Johnson said the Environmental Protection Agency may have some directive over where cuts would be made, meaning the Utah DEQ would have to make cuts to whichever programs the federal government tells them to.

“We have brainstormed, and we have thought $1.3 million dollars is the equivalent of 12 to 14 people (jobs) we could lose if we were to take it out of personnel,” he said.

The prospect of having to lay off Utah workers was “very possible,” Johnson said. “Or we could furlough.”

No matter what, Utahns are likely to lose jobs with the coming sequester, even outside its current form.

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